2005 Cave Canem Poetry Prize
The following poem by Ms. Bridges was published in The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry edited by Arnold Rampersad.
“Great-grandfather Fray was a white man.
He went to another Virginia county to get
grandpa, Albert (his own mixed son) a wife.
He wanted a dark-skin woman because
grandpa looked white.” Aunt Edna
Old man Fray always matched his mules
precisely like fitted pieces of a puzzle.
The horses at the mill were perfect pairs.
So it was not too far for him to travel
from his valley over blue mountains
to a distant Virginia county
where Randolph slaves were darker,
with molasses colored Dahomey skin,
African kinked hair and mahogany eyes.
He wanted to untie the weave
of the Gordian Knot, complicatd
tangle he had created, with the issue
of silk-haired Albert, his son,
too fair to hide among the varied blacks.
The journey was apology or shame.
But cut or unwoven, the knotted
weave leaves kinks too deep
to hide or smooth away. Great-grandma,
Rhoda, the woman old man Fray found,
opulent with African genes, richly colored
the complex threads of our generations.
“Gordian Knot” by Constance Quarterman Bridges. Reprinted from Potomac Review (1999) by permission of Constance Quarterman Bridges.